My annual discussion on “DADT” and LGBT diversity progression in the US Armed Forces

Major Daniel Toven and Johnathan Taylor at the Main Post Chapel, Ft. Bragg.  (Elizabeth Frantz, Fayetteville Observer

Major Daniel Toven and Johnathan Taylor at the Main Post Chapel, Ft. Bragg. (Elizabeth Frantz, Fayetteville Observer)

I have written blogs about the ending of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” within the US Military for the past three years. Actually, I did not intend to write another blog on this subject, but then I always seem to get some new exciting news around the annual anniversary of DADT’s repeal. (This repeal came in late December 2010 … see links later in this blog.)

I started my consulting practice in the Fall of 2010 and one of the first events I attended was a business matchmaking session which seeks to promote business between large corporations and government agencies with small entrepreneurs. Some representatives were there from the nearby Ft. Braagg US Army base in Fayetteville, NC. I introduced myself as a diversity consultant and trainer with a deep expertise in LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender), and mentioned that DADT may soon be repealed and that many military and support business would likely need some training on how to respectfully interact with out LGBT people. He rolled his eyes as if to be saying “Not in my life time!” And then just a few months later DADT was indeed repealed. Here are the links to my two original blogs at that time – part 1 about why this was a good move for our military, and part 2 about the training and work needed to productively move forward.

In January 2013 I provided an update (link) that showed mostly positive progress, like studies that proved that morale in our armed forces had not declined as many of the repeal detractors had forecast. But there was also some isolated examples that showed that training was still needed; a military spouses group here in North Carolina denied membership to the wife of a female Army lieutenant colonel married legally in New York.

The ruling of the US Supreme Court in late June of 2013 declaring many parts of DOMA (The Defense of Marriage Act) unconstitutional further opened the military establishment up to recognizing the same-gender marriages throughout the country. Another major milestone was reached last month in North Carolina when Major Daniel Toven married his boyfriend Johnathan Taylor at the Main Post Chapel at Fort Bragg on December 21, 2013. Unfortunately, because North Carolina has a constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriages, the event was officially a “blessing ceremony” and the two legally wed in the District of Columbia. However, I applaud the US military for being more open and permitting this ceremony on base. (Link to article from the Fayetteville Observer.)

Let’s hope that this positive momentum continues in the US Armed Forces and even spreads to some areas in our country that still do not offer LGBT citizens their full equal rights.

A Follow Up – Innovative Diversity Leadership for the US Armed Forces

Last week I published my annual review (link to blog) of progress in the US Armed Forces around LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Diversity following the ending of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) at the end of 2010. I now follow up that article by sharing some great

Dr. Adis Maria Vila, United States Air Force Academy Chief Diversity Officer

Dr. Adis Maria Vila, United States Air Force Academy Chief Diversity Officer

resources from one of my Linked In connections, the Diversity and Inclusion Leader of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Dr. Adis Maria Vila.

Two key points to start with:
1. Fostering diversity and inclusion initiatives at the US Service Academies is an outstanding and critical emphasis since these academies develop many of our military and national leaders.
2. The excellent methodology that Dr. Vila deployed at the US Air Force Academy is easily transferable and applicable to all kinds of enterprises: educational, business, non-profit, etc.

Here are the links to these two well-written, well-organized clear articles, authored by Dr. Vila::

“Building a Culture of Inclusion at the U.S. Air Force Academy,” in the Spring, 2012 National Civic Review.

“Next Steps for Building a Culture of Inclusion at the U.S. Air Force Academy,” in the Winter, 2013 Insight Into Diversity (once the entire magazine comes up go to pages 6-8)

Some of the key sharings from Dr. Vila fom her last two years of experience in her diversity and inclusion leadership at the USAFA that are transferable for all of us in this field include:
• The importance of understanding the history and culture of the organization to assure developing a diversity and inclusion strategy that is relevant and that will resonate with leaders.
• Extensively collaborating across the organization to create a plan that clearly articulates the core importance of diversity and inclusion to the organization’s strategy.
• Building a core of advocates across the organization who will assist with the communication and execution of the strategy
• Deploying the strong combination of top-down direction setting, board-based bottom-up performance improvement, and cross-process process redesign.

Finally as a diversity consultant with a specialization in LGBT diversity, I am very pleased that Dr. Vila did explicitly include LGBT diversity in the mix. In one article when writing about the composite of individual characteristics included with diversity, she wrote, “This description of diversity is broad and is likely to expand even more as lesbians and gays openly serve in the Air Force.”

Do study these two articles and use them to make your own diversity and inclusion efforts more effective!